Read: Numbers 20:1-12; Deuteronomy 3:23-29; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
I haven't followed the Olympics, but I have heard about the controversy concerning the Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva who has already finished first, having skated well enough to win a gold medal. After her victory, a report surfaced that the fifteen-year-old athlete had tested positive for a banned substance. Because of this, there is now a hearing which will determine Valieva's eligibility to compete on Tuesday in an event where she would shine if she is deemed to be eligible. Due to doping, Russia is already on probation; therefore, its flag and anthem aren't part of the ceremonies. There are consequences for countries as well as athletes when cheating is discovered. It has not yet been determined, at the time of this writing, whether or not Valieva will receive the gold medal, which has not yet been awarded. Although Kamila Valieva has not yet been disqualified, five female ski jumpers have suffered that fate. No, not due to any drug found in their systems. Instead, it was due to their clothes being too baggy. There are concerns in ski jumping that athletes could have an advantage due to the wind giving them an extra lift when clothing is loose and allows it. Such a disappointment for those women. Their work won't be rewarded, at least at this Olympics.
Paul the apostle knew how important it was to compete according to the rules. He spoke of it in 1 Corinthians 9. No doubt, Paul was very familiar with the Isthmian games which were held in Corinth. The Isthmian games required stringent training, with the last month being done in Corinth. There was supervision for the athletes. Rules that had to be followed. Paul knew that if the athletes didn't obey the rules that were set forth, they would be disqualified. Their hard work would be blown away, having yielded nothing for them. I love how the apostle uses a subject which his readers would understand to shine a light into their own lives.
It would be sad for a hard-working athlete to have his efforts go for naught; yet, how much sadder if we miss out on the blessings God has for us because we give up or allow sinful patterns or unprofitable habits to limit what God wants to do through us, Hebrews 12:1-2. We disqualify ourselves when we don't walk, empowered by the Holy Spirit and instead yield to the flesh, Galatians 5:16-26. We forfeit the joy God wants us to have if we live for our own glory rather than the Lord's. Matthew 6 says that when we seek the praise of men, that is the reward we will receive. We disqualify ourselves from what the Lord would give us.
I need to stop for a moment to say that Paul's reminder was not merely for us and his readers but also for himself. He knew how vulnerable he was. He too could be disqualified from fruitful ministry opportunities. He could also see his works burned up when he stood before the judgment seat where believers will be rewarded, 1 Corinthians 3:5-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10. When we are aware of our own weaknesses, we are less likely to become disqualified because we will live humbly and carefully.
Let's turn a corner and learn from Moses. Here was a man who served God and even spoke to Him face to face, Exodus 33:11. Yet, he missed out on an earthly blessing. If you will, he was disqualified. By the time we meet Moses here in Numbers 20, the children of Israel had been in the wilderness for almost forty years. All the men who hadn't believed in God's ability to give them victory over the inhabitants of the land had died during these intervening years. Their unbelief had disqualified around 600,000 men from receiving the blessings that God wanted to lavish upon them. They were replaced by a new generation of people who had grown up during these long years of waiting. In Numbers 20, the people had become thirsty. Can you imagine satiating all those people? Moses could imagine it because back in Exodus 17:1-7, soon after they left Egypt, he had been faced with that same problematic situation. God's response? Moses was to strike a rock. This action would result in enough water to quench the thirst of all the people and their animals. An awesome miracle of provision. Can you imagine that water gushing out and the joy of receiving that gift from the Lord?
Back to Numbers 20. Once again, God had a plan for Moses. It was different than the first one. Once again, there were instructions he needed to follow. He was to speak to the rock this time. However, Moses struck the rock twice. He didn't obey God or display God's glory. Moses was angry, and that was what his actions conveyed. His words and actions did not honor or display God's glory. Even so, water gushed from the rock. Another miracle! However, Moses' actions and reaction disqualified him from finishing what he had begun for the Lord. He wasn't permitted to take the children of Israel into the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy 3:23-29, we read that Moses asked God one more time if he could enter the Promised Land, but God said that the door was closed on that opportunity. Moses was to prepare Joshua for that mission.
When we look at Moses or any other character we meet in the Bible, we are reminded that no one honors Jesus perfectly. None of us grabs every opportunity and runs with it. Our attitudes often need to be adjusted by the Holy Spirit, and many of our works will not be gold, silver or precious stones. Even so, each day brings more opportunities for fruitfulness and letting Jesus live through us, Galatians 2:20. God graciously keeps empowering and helping us, and the honor for each time we are not disqualified is His.
Lord, Help us to walk humbly with You, leaning on Your power each day.